Exercise more, don't drink, don't smoke... in 1893 Dr Allinson tried to make Britain healthier and was struck off
Published Date: 03 January 2008
THE best way to stay healthy is to eat less, exercise more, don't follow faddy diets and cut out drink and tobacco, according to a 19th-century doctor who was struck off for his views.
 
This women's gymnastic class in 1905 would have met with the approval of Dr Allinson  always provided that the ladies were not wearing corsets  as he advocated three hours of walking or other exercise every day for good health
This women's gymnastic class in 1905 would have met with the approval of Dr Allinson always provided that the ladies were not wearing corsets as he advocated three hours of walking or other exercise every day for good health

Recently unearthed archives of Dr Thomas Allinson show there is nothing new about much of the modern multi-billion pound health industry.

Yet the GP's essays, first published in 1893, were so controversial that his own profession banned him from practising when the General Medical Council struck him off a year later.

Dr Allinson was appalled that at a time when Britain was considered the most powerful country on earth, life expectancy averaged a mere 43 years, and half of all children died before they were five.

He grew up in Manchester and studied in Edinburgh, but it was when he opened a GP's surgery in South London he began to notice the poor quality of life for many ordinary people.

In an age before computer games he was already encouraging parents to get their children to play outdoors more often and to take regular holidays by the coast to take in the fresh air.

He advocated three hours of walking or other exercise a day, told people not to work too hard, to cut down salt, eat more fruit and veg, avoid tea and coffee before bed and to be teetotal.

But his advice to give up smoking appalled society, as doctors then regularly recommended smoking a cigar or cigarette as a way to clear the lungs.

He was against many medical drugs of the day which included poisons such as arsenic, mercury and opiates, and, controversially for the time, he was vegetarian.

Dr Allinson is probably best recognised today as the name of the bakery he founded which still bears his name, but in his day he was a controversial health guru.

Archivists working for the bakers have republished, free of charge, a pamphlet containing his original health guide, plus other essays on long walks and a number of healthy recipes.

He reckoned people in London were the most unhealthy because they travelled everywhere by public transport, worked too hard, ate and drank too much and breathed in polluted air.

In comparison, those from the provinces and especially "Scotchmen" were healthier "on account of the vitality they possess, due to oatmeal, pure air and hard exercise".

As for "young ladies", he suggested they should not wear corsets and should perhaps consider joining a local lawn tennis club or get their brother to join them "for a run on a tandem".

Advice is listed under headings including smoking, deafness, salt, pimples and blackheads, baldness, obesity, sleep, poverty and how to grow tall.

In a rant against tobacco he says: "Nicotine is a foul poison. It is a filthy habit, wastes money, brains and time, and as a result gives foul breath, black teeth and a damaged constitution."

Dr Allinson recommended three meals a day and no snacking, with the last meal at least three hours before retiring to bed, which he did around midnight. He also suggested a daily swim, two to three baths a week, but not to wash hair more than once every three weeks.

FOOD FADS

THEN


VICTORIAN doctors regularly prescribed meat and lots of it as a healthy diet a kind of Victorian Atkins diet with bacon, joints and stock in every meal.

The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847, however, and grew in strength in the 19th century. Adherents quoted the Bible saying that man should not eat flesh, others argued eating less meat made you less ferocious.

Radicals like English doctor Emmet Desmore, argued fruits and nuts were the "natural food" of humans, from the days they lived in warm climates without tools or fire.

NOW

THE controversial, carbohydrate-free Atkins diet took a hit when television host Oprah Winfrey returned to eating bread.

A new US trend is the "5-factor" diet embraced by actress Halle Berry and others. It involves five meals a day, with five basic components, taking five minutes to prepare.

Raw-food diets rely on uncooked food, said to contain more enzymes to aid digestion. The bill of fare includes raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs, while some adherents also eat raw meat or fish.